Travel has always been a fundamental part of my life. The love not only for the destinations, but for the journey to get there, is what led me to found my company, SteamLine Luggage. So during the pandemic, getting stuck at home while continuing to promote travel inspiration to my clients seemed surreal to me.
In October 2021, my husband Mark and I decided to pack up and embark on a year-long digital nomadic journey while each running our respective businesses (he owns Good Mask Company). Oh, and with our four young children, all under the age of eight.
Me with my husband Mark and my children Milo (8), Reuben (6), Benji (5) and Felix (2) in Lefkáda, Greece.
We have come to spend the last nine months living in Lefkada (an island in Greece), Corfu, Mauritius (an island in Africa) and now Bali. Our businesses continue to thrive and we have not completely exhausted our bank accounts. In fact, now that we’ve seen how well it’s working, we can even hold on to it longer.
If it’s doable for us, I think it’s doable for everyone. Here’s a summary of how we make it work and the ways I’ve found this experience even beneficial for my business.
What it takes to make a one-year trip
The most common question they ask me is how we do it. Here’s a quick breakdown of the costs and logistical juggling needed to be a digital nomad, an entrepreneur, and a parent to get started:
Expenses: What it cost my family of 6 to travel for a year
Accommodation: € 3,500 / month ($ 3,700)
Childcare: € 2,500 / month ($ 2,650)
Other living expenses: € 2,000 / month ($ 2,100)
Total: € 8,000 / month ($ 8,450)
When my husband and I were drawing up the budget for this trip, we had the theory that we could travel the world for the same cost as living in our home in Dublin during the year. We thought our € 3,500 / month ($ 3,700) rent would go to Airbnbs, our € 2,500 / month ($ 2,650) in childcare costs would go to flights and all other living expenses would be the same, if not cheaper, in other parts of the world.
Overall, this turned out to be true, even considering how travel costs have risen in recent months. The Airbnb from the countries we visited are quite affordable and we were able to get even better deals by planning to stay a month or so and asking the hosts for discounts for extended stays. Since we are not going to a new location every two weeks, flight costs have remained reasonable (although we are actively re-budgeting as flight prices soar) and we can look for tickets with flexible dates and (until and all flexible destinations) to manage these costs. And everything else, from food to activities for children to hiring an occasional caregiver to look after them, has been much cheaper than in Dublin.
We made the intentional decision to stretch our budget a bit to get the most out of this experience. For example, we discovered that spending an additional € 500 a month ($ 530) on Airbnb would bring us homes that were much better. Our current place in Bali, for example, is a huge property with space to stretch out, a lush garden and a pool where the boys play, and a private chef and a mistress to help us. In general, we are not luxurious people, but paying a little more for these extras has made the experience of traveling with family (and finding peace and quiet to work) much easier. We also try not to be too teasing with our budget of experiences, as we want our family to make the most of it.
Our house in Mauritius had two pools and a beach, no bad views in the office.
Ultimately, we spend about € 8,000 ($ 8,450) a month to get our family of six to spend time in some of the most beautiful places in the world, which is a little less than our cost of living in Dublin. Of course, it helped us from a budget perspective that we came from one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in and that we generally planned to travel to low-cost destinations. Your mileage may vary depending on where you currently live and where you expect to go.
Logistics: how it works, life and school a family of 6 juggling
Traveling while you have a business is definitely an act of juggling, especially when you add kids to the mix. My husband and I are not just entrepreneurs; we are digital nomads who need a travel plan, parents who need to go home schooling and entertain our children and travelers who want to enjoy the places we are.
Being in one place longer has helped us manage the logistics of all these tasks. We don’t have to constantly spend time and energy reserving our next thing, and we can adjust to a bit of routine, find trusted people to help us with the kids, and not feel like we have to rush. do everything a site has to offer at once.
The pandemic also offered us an intensive skills course that would help us make all of this possible. Not only are we more used to having kids under our feet (even though we had babysitters at home), my team was already used to working remotely.
But still, being successful in running a business while traveling requires some flexibility in scheduling. My days are usually like this:
- 7:30 a.m .: Children swim or exercise before school.
- 8 am-12pm: The school at the children’s home. Depending on our workloads, my husband or I will review them while the other has a few hours of concentrated work.
- 12pm to 2pm: Our smaller naps, the other kids have quiet time for art projects or creative games, and my husband and I do some work.
- 2 pm-6pm: Kids can go to a club activity or go to the beach with a caregiver, giving us a little more work time, or we can decide to do a family activity and my husband and I look after them so the other can have a few hours of focused work.
- 18:00 a: Right now, all of our meetings and calls are made right now and then after the kids are asleep (which are good times to coordinate calls with people on the other side of the world). I don’t like receiving calls after 9pm, but I do work to encourage that lifestyle.
- Throughout the day: I collaborate with my team of 10 employees and contractors via WhatsApp, and they know they can contact me at any time, but they also know that I trust them to make decisions without me.
I still do all the work I need to keep my business moving forward, but instead of knowing I can sit back and do it in a six-hour period, it’s a little more ad hoc. Even if you don’t have children, it’s good to have this kind of flexibility to be able to live adventures during the day and manage work in different time zones. And every time I’m struggling to work at a weird hour, I remember that I am en [insert amazing country here].
What the long-term journey has given me and my business
Sometimes it’s hard when people just ask about the details of how we make this work, because instead, I want to talk about all the positive things that the travel experience has given me. There are the very obvious personal benefits of knowing the world, spending quality time with my family, and offering my children uniquely enriching experiences. But I have also gained a lot as an entrepreneur and leader.
What I have learned as a travel entrepreneur
On the one hand, I found it much easier to solve problems and think creatively while I’m abroad, because my perceptions and senses increase every day with new things, people, and experiences. I was able to take part of my team to Mauritius for a one week retreat and we saw this creativity extended throughout the company. In fact, today we are implementing several exciting projects that started as ideas while everyone was experiencing a new environment together.
I also think this trip has helped me take a step back and have a bird’s eye view of the business. Being among the weeds can be dangerous for an entrepreneur, and when I’m at home, it’s easy to get obsessed with small things or put myself too much into practice with certain projects. Being so far away has helped me take a step back and understand what is really important and where they really need me.
How has my business gone over a year of travel
So how has all this translated into my company’s results? So far, our sales have increased 63 percent over last year. And while part of that is a natural peak after the pandemic, our trip has also helped. Part of our goal this year was to share what we’re doing and why with others, and we’ve already done six press interviews during the first few months of travel, which have raised SteamLine awareness. I’ve also nurtured some important leads in every place I’ve been.
Finally, I’ve also met potential new creative partners along the way – people I would never have met in my day-to-day life in Dublin, but who have fostered ideas that I hope will bring future collections to life.
Ultimately, my best advice for any entrepreneur considering digital nomad is to do it. The fears before you leave are so great, but the rewards of doing something like this are so high that any challenge you face begins to feel small.